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Ken Burns Creates Art Out of Archival Footage for 'The Vietnam War'

7/25/2017 11:30 AM Eastern
Photo by National Archives and Records Administration.
Coming to PBS this fall will be Ken Burns's latest in-depth documentary series. Co-directed with Lynn Novick,The Vietnam War features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Because its subject matter is a part of recent history, the series features news footage from broadcast networks in addition to archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, evocative home movies, and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

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"I treat the footage as if it is coverage. I feel obligated to not just illustrate, but [also] to find some artful way of combining the various footages to do something more," Burns tells realscreen. "You want to make sure to use the stills and the footage in a way that you are looking for something more, a condition in which the words you’re hearing or the sounds that you’re hearing and the picture that you are seeing just don’t add up to one and one equals two, but you’re looking for some odd catalyst where one and one equals three."

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